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Annual Review

Posted by Karl Morsbach on 16th March 2014

For 13 years Baan Gerda has been providing a nurturing home, education, life skills, and healthcare including life saving ARV (anti-retro-viral) medicine to over 75 children and 10 of  their adult care takers, all of them are HIV infected.. Without Baan Gerda we fear the children simply would not have survived.

In this time span the picture of HIV/AIDS has radically changed in Thailand. It was once a life threatening and much feared disease, but with modern medicine and understanding, it has become a chronic condition where people can expect a near normal life span with near normal quality of life. Accordingly, the needs of those with HIV have changed making a different approach necessary.

The children who first came to us as very sick children and infants are now strong and healthy adolescents. Soon they will be eager to find their place in the adult world.

Special highlights in 2013 include;

- The stable health condition of Baan Gerda children and adults

- Children attending college and university

- Children being trained in vocational skills

- New management staff hired to help with the progress and evolution of the project.
They have been greatly accepted by both children and adults and have shown
promising initial results.

Education
As mentioned already in a previous report we have two different groups of children

a)  those who understand the importance of education and can learn and study
with their peers

b)  those who have certain learning difficulties or impairments that means they
are not able or willing to learn in the formal school environment.

Group a)
In 2013 we so far have nine children who finished school successfully and are now able to continue their studies in College or University. In this group there is only one boy. He took up the subject of electrical engineering. All other students are girls who preferred to take up more business related subjects like accounting, graphic design, product design technology,  liberal art.

We are proud of the girl Tip who is showing excellent scores and is top of the class. Her subject is graphic design.

Group b)
To address the specific needs of this group had been a challenge for us for some time. We have been trying to find vocational training for them, but were initially not successful in doing so due the children being HIV positive. The prevailing stigma and misconception that still exist in Thailand, especially in the provinces and rural areas, were reason for this.

Vocational Skills
We are very glad to report that just recently we found experts in many technical disciplines who are willing to come to Baan Gerda and train and coach the children.
The training provided is very practical and comprehensive and includes electrical maintenance, welding, air-conditioner maintenance and most importantly agricultural  skills. This training has been extremely successful and will continue into 2014 with more courses added. Not only do the children learn vital professional skills that will equip them to work, but they also gain confidence and personal development through this program.

Farm
This year we successfully completed the water reservoir and hydro-system. There is now a water supply around the boarder of the farm. This canal is 4 m deep and 4.5 m wide. Together with a new pond which measures 6 m deep and 40 m in diameter the farm is now equipped to collect enough rain water to last us through the dry season. We also planted 200 coconut trees and fruit trees. These, of course, will take time to mature, but we start early to maximize the potential self-sufficient capacity of the farm land.

A major part of the farm is still rented out to a neighbour  for two reasons;
- the soil is improved by full utilization
- We earn some income

Health
The children are regularly monitored to check their general health and especially to check on their HIV status. We are glad to report that they are generally healthy with viral loads which are within acceptable limits. An exception is the boy Dokdek who is suffering from an HIV related eye disease. He was examined by several eye doctors who told us that all we can do is wait and hope that the condition will stop progressing.

Surprisingly we have a girl who at the age of 17 does not require any anti-retro-viral medicine. This girl has been HIV infected since birth. We, of course, like this and would like to know the reason for this phenomenon.  It also surprises us that most children do not develop any more an increased resistance to the medicine.

Midnight Run
For our children, the midnight run though Bangkok is a much anticipated and enjoyed tradition. They take their annual participation very seriously and start training two months before the event by running multiple laps around BG grounds on a regular basis. Commitment must be shown to the training program in order to qualify to the event. The children are eager to win a trophy and take the training very seriously by practicing hard.

This year we had an amazing 25 children join the 6 km race. Out of a total number of 7.000 participants our children finished in the medium and upper field. This is a fantastic achievement and Amari Hotel and BMW Group, the organizers of the annual event, were very impressed by the commitment of the children.

Overall 2013 has been a very productive year, and has seen many of the children developing into young adults. Our sincere thanks go to all of you for the continued support which made great achievements possible.

Karl & Tassanee


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